Citizen Action Stages Protest of We Energies in Frigid Conditions
For Immediate Release December 23, 2022
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5325 [email protected]
Citizen Action calls out 11% price increase,discriminatory rates for low income people of color, foot-dragging on climate crisis.
Milwaukee: Braving dangerous wind chills Thursday evening, a hardy group of Citizen Action members gathered in front of the We Energies branded Milwaukee Christmas Tree in the Deer District to protest the socially damaging policies of the lucrative utility monopoly.
The protest was led by Citizen Action’s African American led chapter in Milwaukee, North Side Rising Organizing Co-op, and supported by our Citizen Action co-op members across the metro area working on the climate and equity crisis.
The protesters called out We Energies as a driving force behind the energy affordability and climate crisis.
“We Energies wants to take credit for holiday cheer by branding our city’s 109th Christmas Tree. The truth is that the profit-hungry energy monopoly is really giving Milwwaukeans a lump of coal in our stockings this holiday season in the form of massive rate increases, discriminatory prices for low income people, and foot-dragging on the climate crisis,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
First, We Energies imposes racially discriminatory energy burdens on red-lined communities which have been forced to live in zip codes with the oldest least energy efficient buildings, charging high prices and fees while blocking access to energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades for low income homeowners and renters. As a result, Black and Brown Milwaukeeans often pay 10 to 20 times more of their income for energy than their white counterparts, forcing them to choose between keeping the lights on and basics such as food, rent, and medical care.
In the rate case before the Public Services Commission this fall We Energies, which has a guaranteed 10% profit written into public policy, won a huge 11% rate increase on top of what are already the 2nd highest utility prices in the Midwest. Citizen Action coalition partner Walnut Way intervened in the case, demanding a new pricing system that capped the amount charged to low income customers. But We Energies used its political muscle and decades of rigging the rules by which they are regulated to win the case by a 2-1 vote.
Second, We Energies is dangerously slow-walking the necessary climate transition to squeeze maximum profit out of the dirty coal plants it should never have built given the scientific consensus on climate change, while laying the groundwork to dominate the rising renewable energy system and lock in future price gouging. The investments We Energies is making in a clean energy transition are both too slow to meet the climate crisis and over focused on centralized energy production they can control and exploit. They are deliberately blocking access to more democratic renewable energy production such as roof top and community solar, and to energy conservation upgrades which reduce demand for their product.
“The lobbying and political might We Energies has amassed has undermined the original social compact where the utility was guaranteed reasonable profits for operating in the public interest,” continued Kraig. “Current Wisconsin energy policy is rigged to meet insatiable demand for more windfall profits by We Energies management and its Wall Street backers.”
Citizen Action members made it clear Thursday evening that the rate case was only the first battle, and the fight for fair rates and a rapid and just climate transition is beginning.